The morning after the night before. It’s 9.15am and most people are stirring and moving, in their own way and at their own pace, towards the shower. Some, like Rosa, via a cup of fresh coffee; some, like Anne-Sophie and Michel, directly and with purpose; me, via these notes and the lukewarm coffee I have poured from yesterday’s Thermos. Only Nathan and Janeen – and maybe Jona Katrin and Asta, who are in the bunk above me – are still refusing to start the day. There is a certain resignation in the air. The trip is over and there is nothing to do but wash and pack and think of the next thing. This is palpably different to the other mornings. The sounds before were loaded with dynamism, with urgency, getting done the personal, and packing before the group moved on. Where once there was an excitement, now a cautiousness. I am off to the shower, in a resigned and cautious way.
* * *
The sun shines, and giant cumulus hang in the breathless air, bright against the blue, the greenery and the hills. The occasional bird chirrups. The sounds of zips and disembodied voices, now an engine, a cough, some newly-arrived birds, but none of it disturbs the stillness, which runs deeper than mere quiet. The story comes to an end in perfect fashion.
* * *
I’m back at Heida’s in Reykjavik, having shared a taxi from the BSI with Arne, Nathan, Janeen, and Avi. It’s still only 6.30pm.
The drive back was an interesting return to paved roads and normal life. There was a stop off at a waterfall, and one at a petrol station. We set off just before one, after a lot of Frisbee, piggy-in-the-middle rules. On the bus, we were joined by a group who’d walked over from Skogar the day before. The journey started back down the track by which we had arrived, fording at the place where earlier we had waded – it looked bigger and faster than I remembered – then we wove our way through the gravel beds, across other streams as they joined the main river course, along what passed for a road. Gradually, the delta broadened, the road became a smoother track, the gravel turned to moss, then to grass. We passed the end of a glacier – they still excite and fill me with awe; the iridescent blue in the sunshine looking angry, powerful, anything but friendly.
The Westmen Islands (Vestmannaeyjar) became visible at the end of the delta. There were farms, buildings, traffic, people. We stopped at a group of waterfalls (Seljalandsfoss?) with a visitor centre, 4x4s and day-trippers. This was to be our last wade – Janeen was still unsure, until she saw what it was. The waterfall fell tens of metres into what can best be described as a roofless cave, and it was into this that we were to freeze our toes for the last time. Simply stunning – Jon Karl had saved a treat for last. Once out and rebooted, a few of us scrambled up the front to take a vertiginous peek down into the ‘cave’ – Jona too, for which she deserves a great deal of credit, after yesterday.
Back on the bus, we rolled down the smooth dirt track until we hit the paved road and turned right, back towards Reykjavik. We stopped once more at a petrol station, to say goodbye to Priska and Anne-Sophie, who were picking up a bus (or hitching, if they could) to Vik, en route to Skatafell, and to Jon Karl, Frida, Katrin, Jona and Valkyrie (?), who were driving home in their own car.
Then it was the same route back into Reykjavik, through Selfoss and Hveragerdi. Once arrived at the BSI, the remnants of the group said goodbye – Michel, Julia, Rosa, her friend and their two daughters – or exchanged numbers and made arrangements for tomorrow’s reunion of sea swimming and bar hopping.
A more complete set of photos is on my Flickr page